The NY Jets will look for all the help they could get in the 2020 NFL Draft and these three small-school prospects would be welcome additions to the roster.
The NY Jets have no shortage of needs to address in the 2020 NFL Draft this year. From offensive line to edge rusher to wide receiver, the Jets will have plenty of positions to target.
However, the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19 has made the entire pre-draft process a little different this year. And as a result, we could see some changes in regards to which players are drafted.
With limited access to prospects in the weeks and months leading up to the draft, organizations might be less willing to take risks on prospects the don’t have a ton of information about.
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That, in turn, could affect the number of small-school prospects that are ultimately drafted.
On the flip side, we could see an opportunity for teams to draft these small-school prospects in later rounds because of how far they might fall. The Jets could be one of the teams to take advantage of that.
It’s not always the big-school prospects that end up making a significant impact in the NFL. And this year’s draft has no shortage of lesser-known, small-school players who could become very successful NFL players.
With that, let’s take a look at three small-school prospects the Jets could target in this year’s draft.
Next: 3. Alex Highsmith
3. Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte
The Jets have been searching for help at edge rusher for years now and the current crop of players on their depth chart does little to inspire confidence. While players like Jordan Jenkins remain solid run defenders, the team doesn’t have a truly dangerous pass rusher on the edge.
That’s where a player like Alex Highsmith could come into play.
Highsmith played four years at Charlotte racking up moderate production before exploding on to the scene as a fifth-year senior in 2019. The young edge rusher amassed 14 sacks last season the setting school for sacks in a season, career (20), and a single game (4.5).
After moving to a true edge rusher role, Highsmith found his calling and the production is evidence of that. Earlier in the season, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney even called him “the best player we have seen” at that point in the year.
Highsmith is an athletic, high-motor pass rusher who has an explosive first step and ample twitch in his game. However, his slight frame will likely limit him to a 3-4 outside linebacker role in the pros — something that’s fine for the Jets and their scheme.
On top of that, his lack of power at the point of attack allows him to get pushed around in run defense which will likely limit him to a situational pass-rusher role early in his career.
He isn’t a complete prospect by any means, but the athleticism is there for him to develop into a stud pass rusher if he could add some more bodyweight. And given his high work ethic, there’s every reason to believe he’ll strive to reach his ceiling.
Expect Highsmith to be an early Day 3 selection with a chance to go as early as the third round. And for a Jets team searching for help at edge rusher, Highsmith would be a perfect addition.
Next: 2. Antonio Gandy-Golden
2. Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
The Jets are likely to address the wide receiver position on Day 2 of the draft, but if they’re looking for a worthwhile Day 3 target, Liberty’s Antonio Gandy-Golden makes a lot of sense.
A physical specimen standing at 6-foot-4, 223 pounds, Gandy-Golden is a powerful wideout who wins with his physicality and toughness.
His basketball background allows him to box out defensive backs in one-on-one coverage and haul in jump balls with ease. It’s that very trait that allowed him to become an integral red-zone threat at Liberty hauling in 30 touchdowns over his final three years.
Gandy-Golden has one of the best catch radiuses in the entire class and his ability to track the ball in the air combined with his natural balance makes him an excellent downfield possession receiver.
That said, there are legitimate concerns about his ability to separate at the next level. Gandy-Golden is far from a burner running just 4.60 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine this year. And his play speed matches his testing speed.
On top of that, he’s fairly limited as a route-runner coming from a Liberty system that asked him to win more with his physicality and traits as opposed to his nuance.
Gandy-Golden should contribute immediately as a jump-ball receiver/red-zone threat, but he’ll need significant work before he could be relied upon as a starter.
However, as a mid/late-round option, Gandy-Golden’s physical traits make him well worth the gamble.
Next: 1. Robert Hunt
1. Robert Hunt, OG, Louisiana-Lafayette
There may be no more important position for the Jets to address in the 2020 NFL Draft than offensive line. Despite making a ton of signings at the position in free agency, it’s clear that the long-term plan was still to build through the draft.
And while the team is widely expected to take an offensive tackle with their first-round pick, there’s no reason the team can’t double-up and take another one in Round 2 or 3.
If that’s the case, expect Louisiana-Lafayette’s Robert Hunt to be a primary target.
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Hunt was a four-year starter at Louisiana originally starting at left guard before being moved to right tackle in his junior season. The 23-year-old would earn second-team All-Sun Belt honors in 2018 and first-team All-Sun Belt honors in 2019 despite playing in only seven games due to a groin injury.
But if the medicals check out, there’s a good chance that Hunt will be the first true guard taken in this year’s draft.
Hunt is a powerful run blocker who has no problem climbing to the second level and flattening linebackers. But make no mistake about it, Hunt is a scheme versatile player who is athletic enough to fit in on a Jets team tending towards smaller, athletic linemen.
However, he does have room to grow as a pass-protector, specifically with his footwork that could get sloppy from time to time. However, a move to guard should protect him and help alleviate many of those concerns.
Hunt could be a Day 1 starter on the offensive line with the potential to develop into one of the better guards in the league within a couple of seasons so long as his pass-protection improves.
The Jets should make Hunt one of their top priorities on Day 2.